Is Your Child Suffering From Grief?

Has your child recently experienced a loss, such as the death of a loved one or pet, a divorce or a move? Is your child withdrawing or does he or she seem less interested in activities they once enjoyed? Has your child been acting aggressively – picking fights with friends or siblings? Is he or she suddenly hyperactive, experiencing difficulties with concentration or suffering from sleep disturbances? Are you struggling to figure out how to help your child? Do you wonder how long it will take him or her to process their loss or if what they’re experiencing is normal? Do you feel like you’re walking on eggshells around them – unsure of what you can say or do to help? And, if you’ve also been impacted by the same loss, are you struggling to process your own grief while supporting your child through theirs?

It can be a painful process to watch your child lose something or someone that was very important to them. As a parent, it’s natural to want to take away your child’s pain, and it can be a sad and frustrating experience when you don’t know how to. It can also be tricky to figure out how impacted your child is by a loss. Children – like most adults – can experience difficulties identifying and expressing emotions. They oftentimes blame their feelings of grief on something less painful, act out or withdraw.

Many Children Experience Grief and Loss

Experiencing feelings associated with grief and loss at a young age is much more common than you may think. Even if others – including yourself – were affected by the same loss and processed it quickly, your child may take much longer to work through it. Grief can also manifest itself differently in children and in each individual child. What’s important is that they’re given time and support while they process their pain and learn that their feelings are okay.

Therapy Can Be Very Effective In Helping Children Process A Loss

While there is no quick fix to dealing with a loss, therapy can be an extremely effective way to help your child process grief in a healthy and supported way. Experience shows us that the sooner you get your child into therapy, the better the outcome – although it is never too late to seek help for your grieving child.

Processing a loss can be a lot like riding a rollercoaster – for both your child and his or her family. It can be full of ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns. Your BPS therapist is an expert in grief counseling for children, and can help your child and you navigate the stages of grief and the associated emotions as they unfold.

As a parent, you’ll get the support and education you need so you can be prepared to support your child now and in the future should feelings related to the loss arise again. You’ll learn about the grieving process. You’ll learn what you can do to help your child work through intense feelings. You’ll figure out how to show your child that he or she is not carrying the weight of their grief alone.

In time, your child can recover from the intense emotions that accompany a loss. With the help and support of the right therapist, good communication, patience, love and understanding, your child can work through their sadness and shift back into their typical, child-like way of being.

But, you still may have questions or concerns…

Time heals all wounds, right? In time, I’m sure that my child will work through their pain. I did, and I didn’t need therapy.

You may be right. In time, your child may be able to work through his or her grief without any outside help. It really depends on the child and how large the loss was relative to that child. To you – or another child – the loss may have been easily processed. But to another, it may still feel like a really big deal. Every individual processes events and feelings differently, and some can really benefit from the extra support that the right therapist can provide. And, it’s important to note that for a big loss – or what is perceived by your child as a big loss – or for a highly sensitive child, getting help early can be critical. Even a few sessions can help. A BPS therapist can provide support and help the experience feel more manageable and much less daunting for both you and your child.

Although my child is acting a little off, he or she mostly seems okay. I’m worried that therapy will shine too much light on the problem and make my child feel worse.

This is a valid concern and one that you should talk with your BPS therapist about. Your therapist is an expert in treating children with grief and loss issues, but YOU are the expert on your child. The right therapist will listen to, respect and appreciate your concerns. Together, you can figure out the best way to support your child through a painful experience – which they very well may be suppressing or blaming the feelings associated with the loss on other, less painful things. The goal is to help them feel supported, lessen their burden and to meet them where they are emotionally. And, oftentimes, working with an expert can provide some immediate relief for you, too. Your therapist will help both you and your child navigate a tricky and painful time. With the right approach, education and tools, sadness can be lifted and life can get back to feeling normal.

I think that therapy could be helpful. We need to do something. I’m just not sure that we can afford it right now.

This is your child’s life and wellbeing. Addressing the emotions and behaviors associated with your child’s grief and loss may prevent a host of problems from occurring as he or she enters new developmental stages, such as adolescence. Working with a therapist on processing a loss and the emotions it creates now can help your child feel better faster. It can also prevent your child from developing negative residual feelings and behaviors.

Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained to work specifically with children struggling with grief and loss issues or who they or their child couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct a increase the likelihood of a good fit, BPS offers an online therapist directory and match you with a therapist who is trained and experienced in working with children struggling with grief and loss and whose personality is a good match for you and your child. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to your child, yourself and your family may be one of the most valuable investments there is. Imagine everyone in your home feeling and functioning better on a regular basis and ask yourself what that’s worth.

If money still is an issue, you can talk with your BPS therapist to see if they work on a sliding scale. They may also be able to help you find other lower cost resources in the community.

To increase the likelihood of a good fit, BPS offers an online therapist directory which will help you to determine what your child’s specific issues are and to ensure a good match between you, your child and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.

Check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you and your child with a therapist who has expertise working with children and grief and loss issues.

jennifer-keyBPS therapist Jennifer Key, LCSW helped create the content for this page. Jenny has been working with children, parents and families on grief and loss issues since 1999. She practices traditional therapy methods, such as psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral techniques, but has also found that many children experience significant, positive change while interacting with animals. Jenny’s practice includes equine and animal therapies.